Cuba’s government has always tightly controlled Internet access. Even foreign visitors were threatened with expulsion if they allow Cubans to use their computers — until now. For the first time in 88 years, a United States president is visiting the country, and is helping the island to start granting Internet access to its citizens.
During an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Obama announced that Google will begin providing Cuban residents with Internet access.
“One of the things that we’ll be announcing here is that Google has a deal to start setting up more Wi-Fi and broadband access on the island,” explained Obama. “Over time, if in fact you start seeing access to the Internet — which is necessary for Cuba to enter the 21st century economically —invariably that gives the Cuba people more information and allows them to have more of a voice.”
Last month, Cuba’s telecommunications company, ETSCA, announced that it will launch its first domestic broadband service in the country’s capital, Havana. Obama’s visit follows the ending of the U.S trade embargo with Cuba, and he hopes his presence will motivate the country toward the pursuit of greater freedom.
As of today, Cuba’s Internet access is poor. Only about 5 percent of the entire population is able to online in any capacity, and up until this year, Internet connection was only available for professional government officials who have been cleared to have access, and the access they do get is censored. Sites like YouTube are blocked, among other destinations. Many Cuban citizens have developed numerous techniques of getting around the government’s control, such as traveling to Internet Cafe coffee shops and paying $2 for hour-long Wi-Fi access, or purchasing accounts through the black market, where former government officials sell their names & passwords for those who want access.
Google has yet to comment on how much it will cost or how will citizens go about getting access.